I went to the store earlier this week to return some clothing we had ordered online. When I got to the store, I waited my turn in line, showed my proof of vaccination and my ID card to the employee at the door, and went in. So easy. Everyone was happy to participate in this painless process. A process that keeps all of us safe. A process that signals to others that we value protecting the health of the community in which we are active participants. A process in place now at every store here.
I should pause here for a moment and clarify something. This summer we moved from the northwest of Israel to the northwest of Germany. I now live in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in Germany. I have residency status and so I have a German identity card (no, it does not list that I am Jewish) and care through the German healthcare system.
For quite a while now we’ve had a 3G rule here: you must be vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen), or have a valid negative test (getestet) to gain entry to public places. Up until a few weeks ago enforcement of this policy was relatively informal – you showed proof of your 3G status when requested, and in most places it wasn’t requested. Children are tested at school if they aren’t vaccinated or recovered; their student ID is sufficient proof of their 3G status when school is in session.
As infection rates began to climb recently the national government was able to work with the 16 state governments to reach a new policy of 2G and 2G+. Even with a relatively high vaccination rate and boosters available to all the government chose to act and act decisively. The G that we dropped is tested (getestet). If you want to go into a store (except for a grocery store or pharmacy), you have to show proof of vaccination or recovery. The same goes for events and even outdoor activities like Christmas markets. And some events that are deemed 2G+ (like my children’s school concert) requires everyone to be tested, regardless of vaccination and recovery status. Children under 16 are not included in this requirement for when they are being tested in school. And yes, everyone here masks up and only with approved types of masks – N95 or surgical masks.
This is life here and it’s not a problem for anyone. We are all members of a society with an obligation to behave in a way that protects others. And if I don’t want to do what is asked of me to protect others, that’s my choice, and I will find that my access to society is limited because I am choosing to opt out. Just to be clear, I am recovered, vaccinated, and boosted against this virus.
I was dismayed to hear dangerous rhetoric from Minister Eli Avidar in a TOI article about plans to reinstate the Green Pass. I get that he and others see this as “madness” or a “blow to citizens”, as he is quoted in the article. We can also look at the situation differently and that’s what we all need to be doing these days. It is not a burden on the employees to ask for proof of vaccination status and ID. That’s not more of an effort than the security guard at the mall looking in my bag or trunk and asking if we have a weapon with us. That’s normal for life in Israel. And this has to be our normal right now to get through this pandemic.
What such rules signal is that the government is taking the situation with this virus seriously. It allows the business to signal that they take this situation seriously and value protecting the health of their employees and customers. It allows me to signal that I take my responsibility seriously to do what is asked of me to protect public health.
These regulations don’t seem to be slowing down the business sector here. If anything, the lines now at all businesses while we wait to have our information confirmed signals to others that these businesses are doing well. The demand to go into the stores is clear and visible. And that makes sense because we, like in Israel, have a high vaccination rate. In addition, at outdoor events, the bracelets we are given allow us to easily move around and show our status easily.
If Minister Avidar is really concerned about the economic consequences of such a policy he should act to implement strong economic policies to support these businesses weather this new reality. Don’t bicker at your colleagues, especially from within the coalition. Stop posturing and grandstanding. Step up and come up with a plan that addresses the hurt you see to the economy. Signal that the government takes this seriously and back up the workers, don’t make them pawns or use them as excuses.
We need to reframe this entire discussion. It’s about reciprocity. Reciprocity with citizens who needs to take necessary steps to protect others, including him/herself. With businesses that make up our economy and depend on healthy citizens who can work and shop. With the government who is supposed to keep the country functioning economically and socially. We are all in this together and depend on each other to get through this pandemic. Our systems break down when we forget how interconnected we are with each other. That interconnection is a two-way street and we seem to have forgotten that.
Economic losses can be made up. Lives lost are gone forever.